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Old 4th February 2008, 20:50   #1
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Default Orissa's Unknown Forests [Kolkata-Kuldia-Satkosia-Bangriposi-Kolkata] -->> Part 2

Orissa's Unknown Forests [Kolkata-Kuldia-Satkosia-Bangriposi-Kolkata] -->> Part 1 - continued

As stated my travel plan started with one singuilar theme in mind - that it had to be close, less than 700 km from Kolkata, be remote and less known. Orissa comes up as the only other alternative and having travelled to Daringbadi and Belghar Sanctuary in March 2007, I was determined to find out more about other lesser known areas of Orissa.

Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary came up after a few searches on the net - Kuldiha came up accidentally as I was looking for a stop in between rather than a hectic direct journey to Satkosia along NH6, which incidentally is not one way and as we found out later is prone to traffic jams due to the Bangriposi ghat road and the oversized trucks getting stuck when going beside each other!!!.

Without personal transportation, one gets down at Cuttack railway station and from there it is around 150 km along NH42 till Pamapsar check gate [the main entry point of Satkosia].

After having a blast at Kuldiha, which we aptly described as an appetizer, we were headed for Satkosia, the main course, on an early Wednesday morning.

We were back on NH60 and before Choudhar [a circle before Cuttack town comes] took NH42. This is the best road to take rather than the road that goes via Sukinda mines and Bhuban - as was instructed by the locals. NH42 is a great road to drive, smooth without a bump - it connects Cuttack with Sambalpur. The journey was unventfull but with lovely scenery with flowering mangro trees and greenery all throughout.

We stopped at Angul once for collecting papers from the Forest Department Steno's residence as that day being Jan 23rd, Netatji's birthday, was a holiday. Again back to NH42 and then we take a village metalled road off Badakera. Satkosia Wildlife Sanctuary hoarding is there to direct and as such no possibility of going straight and missing it. Again one drives through a totally rural setting till we reach to Pampasar after around 20 mts from Badakera. Pampasar is the main check gate. We were headed for Tikarpara [ Pampasar (checkgate) – Jagannathpur - Purunakote – Tikarpara (32kms.) ] and from there again 4-5 km to the banks of Mahanadi River for swiss tent accommodation.

Satkosia Map



The road till Tikarapada is metalled with around 3-4 small villages on either side of the road and it divides the reserve forest in almost equal halves.

The metalled road to Tikarpada


The real forest area starts as one takes up the roads that come off perpendicular to the main metalled road. We again pass through dense forests interspersed with the village stops as we go straight along the metalled road till Tikarpada. Where the metalled road ends, enquired about the way forward to our tent accomodation [3 km from Tikarpada].

The tents with the backdrop of the mountain forest and on banks of Mahanadi with the river at one side flowing through the mountains is a sight that will remain etched in my memory forever. We reached around 2 in the afternoon and the rest of the evening was spent enjoying the surroundings and chatting - saying innumerable times among ourselves what journey and experience we are having - everyday is a different experience and every day we have tales to relate. How could such a place be less known, least of all among the well travelled Bengalis.

Tent accommodation along the river bank






My Haldia friend with the catch that was our lunch - the whole of it


Full moon over Mahanadi has to be seen in person, a camera will never do justice. Next early morning watched the sunrise among the hill range, a fabulous orange tinge slowly appearing on the river.












Having savoured all these and after again a delicious breakfast of puri and aloo bhaja, went on for exploring each and every forest road. We went to the Labangi FRH through Jokub Reserve Forest.

Way to Labangi


Again here you are free to roam about, not a soul to say anything, no restrictions like cant go here or there - dont think you can do such among the more known wildlife sanctuaries. With personal transportation, a lot can be covered inside the sanctuary and we did around 200+ km inside Satkosia forests itself.


Among the most notable forest journey was to a place called Kandhaida. There was this innocous crude road sign along the main road to Tikarpada "Kandhaida Water Tank 6 km" and while first going pass it, it curiously had a strange feeling in me [some kind of paranormal feeling!!]. On an a Thursday late afternoon, the boating trip being cancelled due to some technical problem, came up with the idea of going there - after all just 6 km of journey - will be back by evening to Purunakot, the small village by main road, and have hot pakoras and tea there. It was a perfect plan for the late afternoon/evening and we were off to Kandhaida.


The road once it branches off lead to some empty grasslands with a few village huts for the first 2 km. Then all of a sudden within a 1 km the terrain totally changes, dense forests with up and down sloping grounds on either side with a very narrow rocky road. This is typical elephant /tiger/leopard territory. Shrub and tree branches brushed the Safari VTT sides, the road was as narrow as to just let a car to pass through with no chance of making a turn, there not even an inch of space anywhere. We almost all knew this was totally badland wildlife territory, and again no forest guard or anyone knows that we are here. The sense of fear one associates being on a desolate forest road comes out. Then we slowly make through the forest road, hoping that the last 3 km comes to an end and see a clearing or something so that can turn the VTT.

The road suddenly opens upto an small clearing, just enough for a car to reverse, and to the watch tower. I have seen a number of watch towers during my limited forest journeys but this was different. It was nicely built with narrow stairs [a absolute rarity], looked like it was renovated not too long ago and with iron grill rods all over - thus an totally secured forest tower. This had my alarm bell ringing - why would someone have such a secure watch tower when all the watch towers I visit are open, mostly of wood, and in decreipt to okay condition. Why is this so new, so good?



The greenish tank water and the approaching dusk made the atmosphere totally sinister to say the least - and here we have travelled only 6 km off the main road!! I, by that time reversed the VTT, at least now VTT is point to the right direction - towards the main road. Mesmerized we watched the surroundings on tank edge - the drooping trees, the greenish water, and the approaching dusk - looking over our shoulders as if anticipating something suddenly might come out. We were there for around 10 mts now, ready to go back, when all of sudden we hear 3 big booming call, something that would have come within 500 mtrs or so - most likely it was that of an elephant but this was totally different from the one that we hear on television, i.e, of a elephant call that we are familiar of.

With the sudden first noise I almost dropped my camera - it was that startling, the last two made us just look at each other faces for a that few seconds and us scurrying to the watch tower on top with the iron gates locked. We had enough - the ladies with their two small children were definitely terrified. Watch tower was the most secure place at that time but staying there was out of question as dusk was approaching fast, we have to go out before the elephants come out to water tank and if by chance they block that narrow road - there was no other option than to be at the watch tower for another who knows for how many hours. One by one all go in to VTT and I drive back again along that narrow road back and stop at the first tea shop at Purankote village.

As we had tea, we met with the local sarpanch of that village, and soon as we say we just came from Kandhaida and that we heard those booming wild call, his nervous expression of his face suddenly shows up. He immediately has his hands folded and says that we were luckly to come out without incident. The call that we heard is of two lone tuskers, they just 2 days before had killed a villager while he was attending to his buffalo in his village house that too near the metalled road. These tuskers have been declared rogue elephants and if it was not for the Wildlife sanctuary status, Government would have shot them both. Since this being a WLF, govt. now gives compensation of 1 lakh to each and every person killed. Now had we known this fact, would we have gone over there with the ladies and the 2 small children.


Later in the night as I sat down relaxing on the river bed, Kandhaida still has me in trance. I was not able to take it off from my mind - I have to go over there again and have to spend some time in that watch tower overlooking that water tank. The ladies and the small children were out of question. Made some enquiries - a forest guard and a local boy agreed to accompany us - me and my bachelor friend from Haldia, my wife giving the permission [!!!] as the forest guard was there. And at what time we will be going - at around 12 midnight and and to come back by 3 am. But then it suddenly it rained a lot from the last day in Satkosia [from Thursday late night onwards], it will be a huge risk to go with my 2wd VTT along that narrow forest road and also in rains there is no need for wildlife to come to the water tank - the plan was dropped. Definitely will be spending some time on that watch tower next time.

Friday morning we woke up to a drenched Satkosia. Overnight rain made the earth smell good, it had that peculiar rural wet earth smell. In the morning we had plans of going to Bheemdhara Falls and Baghmunda. There are both at opposite sides of the mettaled road that divides the wildlife sanctuary in two. For Bheemdhara Falls we had go over some rickety wooden bridges, again through dense forests. Though there was rain, the road was firm.

Way to Bheemdhara across wooden bridge


It was a totally different story as we tried Baghmunda. This was more muddy uphill terrain with a ditch on either side of the road. We just had gone around 2 km or so, we began to slide over the mud and this was twice. The first time the mud area was small but then the next one had the VTT, all of 2.5 tonnes plus, sliding all over and me compensating wildly with the steering wheel. We were just about to get bogged down when after 20 metres of zig-zag sliding the tyres found firm ground. Stopped, went and surveyed till 1 km ahead, it was a uphill road with all mud. There was no way I could chance the 2wd VTT here - it surely will get bogged down and too in a forest. No way, turned back in the widest part of that narrow road after doing reversing and forward may be around 10-12 times and again through that wild sliding on the mud track.

Elephants had this done overnight and blocked the way with bamboo offshoots - we were first to cross the road and clear it before the forest guards even





VTT Jungle Camouflage





Saturday morning we checked out, it rained the whole Friday night and it was still raining moderately. While we came there were 2 places where authorities were making some high bridges. As such the road was diverted down to the stream beds and then again back on to the metalled road. As known upstream rains can fill up a stream in seconds and I had this apprehension that may be would be stuck if there was flowing rain water on those two sections. We started with apprehension on Saturday morning - the first section was okay, minimal water no problem. As we come up to the second section we could see from distance it was bad. The bridge is being constructed, one cannot drive through it, one could walk over it just along the bridge sidewalk. Water was flowing rapidly.

Went down felt the force, saw it was there but may be just borderline - anyway this was the first time I will be dealing with such a situation so whatever I concluded could have been totally wrong. Then I walked slowly through the water - it was around 2 feet. Talked with some guys who were constructing the bridge and said that a truck/bus could cross it but no car. Anyway it had to be crossed, we have to move forward to Bangriposi. Safari lovers classifies Safari as a truck and thus by that guy's standard this should cross.

Everyone disembarked and now it was the VTT, me and the flowing stream. Put it in first gear, revved it and crossed it in one breath and hurray I was on the other side with engine still running - only steam vapour coming out under the hood as water came in contact with the radiator. This I wanted to capture in camera, first for its uniqueness if I was successful and also if down in the stream stuck hopelessly that the photo would have cleared my insurance promptly. But then with no power source for 5 days, camera batteries were long dead the last day.

Bangriposi journey was through NH6 via Talcher and Keonjhar. Got caught up in big truck jams, lost 2 hours. The sudden 2 days winter rain had the antiquated trucks along the single lane stuck. Plus there are those trucks carrying tendu leaves, carrying load way above their size, it looks like a big turban on the truck. We again got into a jam caused by these two supersized trucks getting stuck in that one landed NH6.

The scenery along the road however was awesome, with small hills on the horizon and then as we go past the outer fringes of Simlipal forest onto Bangriposi Ghat road. We reach Bangriposi at around 6 pm, tired but a sense of fulfillment - this trip turning out as one of my best trip. We spent the Sunday morning exploring Bangriposi, visiting the Kanak Durga Mandir where all truck drivers stop for a moment or two before going on with their journey along the ghat roads, Buribalam river, and having tea alongside a small village.

VTT-TMT at a Bangriposi Village


Kanak Durga Mandir - Bangriposi


Around 2 pm Sunday afternoon we start for our journey back home, the roads after Bangriposi till Lodhashuli being atrocious - this part of the NH6 belongs to no one, neither Orissa, Jharkhand or W Bengal. Had a late lunch at Kolaghat and then we were back to Kolkata in no time - bang in the middle of evening city traffic. Back in the city - it is a different kind of jungle out here.

Well Kandhaida still beckons me, dont know when but have to go there again for that. During summer months the elephants come down to the Mahanadi for water and that is something to see - but one has to tolerate temperatures of around 40 C.

Last edited by adc : 4th February 2008 at 21:04.
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Old 5th February 2008, 10:45   #2
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Awesome writeup. Thanks for sharing. This makes me want to plan a trip to visit to Orissa. Warm regards
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Old 5th February 2008, 11:24   #3
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Excellent writeup again. You seem to be going places which a lot of Safari owners wouldn't. I loved the fish picture and what happened in Kandhaida was very intriguing. Thanks for sharing this excellent travelogue.
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Old 5th February 2008, 12:52   #4
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Another excellent piece of writeup and with the pics it was fine read...So there are some nice jungles to explore in East...
Abhi
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Old 5th February 2008, 13:14   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indianrunner View Post
Awesome writeup. Thanks for sharing. This makes me want to plan a trip to visit to Orissa. Warm regards
Yes definitely sure do, the area is totally unexplored and the local people are ever there to help you out with directions. It really has been very pleasant journey. Room rent was all of Rs 250/day in Kuldiha and in Satkosia it was Rs 500/day - no way you can do a forest journey nowadays that cheap. And no way in majority of the forests you will be allowed to explore for 150-200 km without supervision or restrictions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hondadude View Post
Excellent writeup again. You seem to be going places which a lot of Safari owners wouldn't. I loved the fish picture and what happened in Kandhaida was very intriguing. Thanks for sharing this excellent travelogue.
Oh yes, Kandhaida still has me trance - one has to explore that area till Katrang.


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Originally Posted by akroy View Post
Another excellent piece of writeup and with the pics it was fine read...So there are some nice jungles to explore in East...
Abhi
And still there are 2 more in Orissa that will be done for sure next year - Chandaka and Debrigarh - this being totally unknown and unexplored.

Last edited by adc : 5th February 2008 at 13:16.
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Old 5th February 2008, 14:25   #6
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Excellent writeup and fantastic pictures...the right terrain for the VTT-TMT
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Old 5th February 2008, 14:29   #7
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Simply awesome. One of the best travelogues I've read so far.

Your post brought fond memories of my childhood visit to Tikarpara with my dad and some family friends. This was way back in 1969, when we were living in Cuttack.
Memories of the dense forest, the hills and the Mahanadi river (with crocs) still linger on.
We'd stayed in a guest house on the banks of the river, adjacent to the forest, and had heard all kinds of growls in the entire night. One thing I clearly remember was that we'd passed a left turn and headed straight to the village, when one villager dashed out and blocked our car. When my uncle stepped out in anger, he pointed out that a little ahead (hardly 50 feet) the road simply ended, and there was a steep fall into the mighty Mahanadi river. We profusely thanked him for that deed, failing which we'd have been a good feed for the crocodiles in the river.
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Old 5th February 2008, 14:36   #8
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Great travelogue to read and excellant pics ADC,

the river pics are too good
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Old 5th February 2008, 15:11   #9
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Originally Posted by vnabhi View Post
Simply awesome. One of the best travelogues I've read so far.

Your post brought fond memories of my childhood visit to Tikarpara with my dad and some family friends. This was way back in 1969, when we were living in Cuttack. Memories of the dense forest, the hills and the Mahanadi river (with crocs) still linger on.
I can only imagine that Satkosia in 1969 will be wild to its fullest extent. And those experiences you can never forget, those are unique
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Old 5th February 2008, 16:28   #10
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Awesome travelogue adc! Was like reading a Jim Corbett novel
I have been dreaming of such a trip for a long time! Will meet up sometime with you and get some tips!
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Old 5th February 2008, 20:35   #11
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How is the condition of the NH6 between Bangriposi and Nimpura (namely stretch/terror passing thru Jharkhand/Baharagora)
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Old 5th February 2008, 21:20   #12
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Awesome writeup!!.. I almost felt as if i had travelled with you all through the trip.
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Old 7th February 2008, 15:26   #13
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Amazing write-up and fantastic to know there are so many unexplored terrains in India waiting to be explored
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Old 7th February 2008, 15:36   #14
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Excellent travelogue and pics. Great to read thorugh. When is the Part-III coning?
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Old 8th February 2008, 10:28   #15
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Loved reading both the parts. I have lived my childhood near forests and would love to go into one, at every chance. Sometimes I wish I could leave everything behind to go and live in a forest
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